Inspirational Story of the Day: How a Woman Overcame Her Exercise Addiction

If you’ve ever known somebody who struggled with exercise addiction| this story from Shape will sound familiar. Read on about one woman’s journey and how to recognize symptoms of the surprisingly common disorder.

I can trace the roots of my exercise addiction back to the first time I snuck off to my room to do jumping jacks| lunges| burpees ¡ª anything that would up my heart rate and help me take control of my body. It started after my parents sent me| at 13| to a residential facility after they found out I was skipping class to drink and smoke pot. Instead of confronting the self-esteem issues that had led me to substance abuse| I just found a new way of controlling my body: through exercise.

The day I was released from the facility and let back into my high school| I joined a gym| started shedding weight| and embraced the identity of a “fit girl.” The social reinforcement I received for my efforts salved my self-consciousness and insecurity. Outside the treatment center| fitness wasn’t a negative thing it was hailed as the paramount of perfection| attractiveness| and appeal. (Read about 13 Mental Health Benefits of Exercise.)

Over time| exercise became a means of coping with all imaginable upsets conflicts with friends| rejection from boys| fights with my parents and it remained my go-to method of dissolving the pervasive discomfort I felt in my own skin.

In high school| I spent my lunches at the local sports club| passing time between classes on the elliptical| StairMaster| and treadmill. After school| I’d return to the gym for at least one more hour. By senior year| my fixation on calories burnt| repetitions performed| and group fitness classes completed intensified. Working out dominated my focus and my life. The more of it I did| the more I felt I needed.

In college| my routines expanded. I chose courses based on how they’d fit my gym schedule. I lost weight| obsessed over nutrition| and finally took a semester off to check into an eating disorder clinic| convinced my caloric restriction was the real issue at hand. But the very day I left the program| my first stop was a gym. (Find out What to Do If Your Friend Has an Eating Disorder.)

Admitting the Problem

It took me years to acknowledge that what I was doing was anything but admirable. What incentive did I have to admit my tireless trips to the gym were driven by disorder? I didn’t want to stop hearing how great I looked| how much other gym-goers wished they could “be like me.” My self-esteem hinged on how much I lifted| how far I ran| and how little time I spent sitting still.

The anxiety| irritability| and worthlessness I felt when not working out propelled me to exercise through herniated discs| stress fractures| two years of not menstruating| torn muscles| and shin splints. After landing my first full-time job| I devoted two hours at the fitness club near my office each morning before making it to my desk by 9 a.m. I’d take additional gym breaks during lunch and often return after work before heading home to eat dinner (I was constantly famished) and crash from exhaustion. (Could you have an addiction to food?)

Travel was impossible. Leaving the comfort of my home exercise routine caused me waves of panic bordering on breakdown. Rather than exploring the sights wherever I landed| I’d devote hours to hunting down fitness centers or cycling through body-weight exercises in my hotel.

Equally difficult? Relationships. It’s hard to spend quality time with anyone when you consider intimacy a threat to your gym schedule. While new dates were often initially impressed by my commitment| they quickly grew frustrated when I’d cancel plans or cut days and evenings short so as to save my energy for workouts.

I needed help| but I was afraid getting it would dampen the drive I had to work out and take away what had bolstered me| given my life structure| and made me feel important for nearly a decade.

One weekend| doing yoga in my apartment| I kicked over a glass. It broke on my forehead| and blood splattered onto the carpet. The wound was gushing. But I refused to seek medical help until I completed the full range of sun salutations. That’s when I knew I couldn’t avoid therapy any longer. I had become a danger to myself. I was afraid of what else my addiction to exercise would lead me to do.

Find out what happened when the writer finally faced up to her addiction.

Getting Help Finally

I began seeing a cognitive behavioral therapist. I was terrified that she’d make me give up the gym entirely. But I was relieved when she told me that wasn’t the goal our priority was to find a more balanced approach to exercise| which| eventually| we did.

Changing my habits was arduous. The first day I didn’t do cardio| I felt like my skin was crawling. But over time| I realized that an off day here or there| a scaling back on intensity and time spent at the gym when I was tired or sick| made me feel stronger and gave me more energy to engage in other activities outside the gym.

I got a prescription for antianxiety medication. I pursued other passions writing| comedy| and spending much more time with family and friends. And along the way| I met someone who fell in love with me| not just for my body but for my mind enlightening me to the possibility that I was worth so much more than the miles I logged or the weight I could lift. (That I had more time in my day to spend with this person| due to my more reasonable exercise schedule| also helped open my eyes to this liberating realization.) (Check out these 20 Ways to Get Happy (Almost) Instantly!)

This isn’t to say that I’ve stopped stressing about the gym altogether| or that I never fall back on old habits. There are still days when I spend too much time on the treadmill| only to realize what I was running from is still waiting for me when I get off. But my life today is filled with pursuits that bring me more satisfaction and give me a greater sense of purpose than any amount of calories burned or distance covered.

What You Need to Know

Up to three percent of the general population and 25 percent of people dealing with other addictions meet exercise addiction criteria| according to the National Institutes of Health. So what| exactly| are these exercise addiction criteria? Scientifically speaking| there are seven red flags:

    Tolerance: Needing more and more physical activity to achieve an improvement in mood| sense of calm| or exercise high.Withdrawal: Experiencing anxiety and irritability (and sometimes achiness or fatigue) on days where you can’t get to the gym.Time: Devoting unusually large amounts of time to engaging in| planning| recovering from| or thinking about exercise.Intention Effect: Planning to work out for a limited amount of time but repeatedly exceeding that limit.Loss of Control: Being unable to temper the amount of time spent exercising and feeling as if it’s controlling your life.Reduction in Other Activities: Canceling plans and losing interest in non-exercise-related activities as working out always takes precedence.Continuance: Persisting in one’s workouts despite injury| illness| fatigue| or medical advice.

If you feel you meet these criteria| reach out to a mental health professional who specializes in behavioral addictions| obsessive compulsive habits| or body image issues. If you know someone you think might be suffering| tread lightly when confronting them (no one likes to be told they need help)| but mention you’re concerned about their habits and offer support.

Though recovery from exercise addiction is a tricky process| there is hope for those who are suffering. It may take an immense amount of work ¡ª much of which is behavioral change (no easy task) ¡ª but trust me when I say you can get better (and you don’t even have to quit going to the gym)!

Katherine Schreiber is the author of the Truth About Exercise Addiction: Understanding the Dark Side of Thinspiration.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography

Inspirational Story of the Day: How a Woman Overcame Her Exercise Addiction

If you’ve ever known somebody who struggled with exercise addiction, this story from Shape will sound familiar. Read on about one woman’s journey and how to recognize symptoms of the surprisingly common disorder.

I can trace the roots of my exercise addiction back to the first time I snuck off to my room to do jumping jacks, lunges, burpees ¡ª anything that would up my heart rate and help me take control of my body. It started after my parents sent me, at 13, to a residential facility after they found out I was skipping class to drink and smoke pot. Instead of confronting the self-esteem issues that had led me to substance abuse, I just found a new way of controlling my body: through exercise.

The day I was released from the facility and let back into my high school, I joined a gym, started shedding weight, and embraced the identity of a “fit girl.” The social reinforcement I received for my efforts salved my self-consciousness and insecurity. Outside the treatment center, fitness wasn’t a negative thing ¡ª it was hailed as the paramount of perfection, attractiveness, and appeal. (Read about 13 Mental Health Benefits of Exercise.)

Over time, exercise became a means of coping with all imaginable upsets ¡ª conflicts with friends, rejection from boys, fights with my parents ¡ª and it remained my go-to method of dissolving the pervasive discomfort I felt in my own skin.

In high school, I spent my lunches at the local sports club, passing time between classes on the elliptical, StairMaster, and treadmill. After school, I’d return to the gym for at least one more hour. By senior year, my fixation on calories burnt, repetitions performed, and group fitness classes completed intensified. Working out dominated my focus and my life. The more of it I did, the more I felt I needed.

In college, my routines expanded. I chose courses based on how they’d fit my gym schedule. I lost weight, obsessed over nutrition, and finally took a semester off to check into an eating disorder clinic, convinced my caloric restriction was the real issue at hand. But the very day I left the program, my first stop was a gym. (Find out What to Do If Your Friend Has an Eating Disorder.)

Admitting the Problem

It took me years to acknowledge that what I was doing was anything but admirable. What incentive did I have to admit my tireless trips to the gym were driven by disorder? I didn’t want to stop hearing how great I looked, how much other gym-goers wished they could “be like me.” My self-esteem hinged on how much I lifted, how far I ran, and how little time I spent sitting still.

The anxiety, irritability, and worthlessness I felt when not working out propelled me to exercise through herniated discs, stress fractures, two years of not menstruating, torn muscles, and shin splints. After landing my first full-time job, I devoted two hours at the fitness club near my office each morning before making it to my desk by 9 a.m. I’d take additional gym breaks during lunch and often return after work before heading home to eat dinner (I was constantly famished) and crash from exhaustion. (Could you have an addiction to food?)

Travel was impossible. Leaving the comfort of my home exercise routine caused me waves of panic bordering on breakdown. Rather than exploring the sights wherever I landed, I’d devote hours to hunting down fitness centers or cycling through body-weight exercises in my hotel.

Equally difficult? Relationships. It’s hard to spend quality time with anyone when you consider intimacy a threat to your gym schedule. While new dates were often initially impressed by my commitment, they quickly grew frustrated when I’d cancel plans or cut days and evenings short so as to save my energy for workouts.

I needed help, but I was afraid getting it would dampen the drive I had to work out and take away what had bolstered me, given my life structure, and made me feel important for nearly a decade.

One weekend, doing yoga in my apartment, I kicked over a glass. It broke on my forehead, and blood splattered onto the carpet. The wound was gushing. But I refused to seek medical help until I completed the full range of sun salutations. That’s when I knew I couldn’t avoid therapy any longer. I had become a danger to myself. I was afraid of what else my addiction to exercise would lead me to do.

Find out what happened when the writer finally faced up to her addiction.

Getting Help ¡ª Finally

I began seeing a cognitive behavioral therapist. I was terrified that she’d make me give up the gym entirely. But I was relieved when she told me that wasn’t the goal ¡ª our priority was to find a more balanced approach to exercise, which, eventually, we did.

Changing my habits was arduous. The first day I didn’t do cardio, I felt like my skin was crawling. But over time, I realized that an off day here or there, a scaling back on intensity and time spent at the gym when I was tired or sick, made me feel stronger ¡ª and gave me more energy to engage in other activities outside the gym.

I got a prescription for antianxiety medication. I pursued other passions ¡ª writing, comedy, and spending much more time with family and friends. And along the way, I met someone who fell in love with me, not just for my body but for my mind ¡ª enlightening me to the possibility that I was worth so much more than the miles I logged or the weight I could lift. (That I had more time in my day to spend with this person, due to my more reasonable exercise schedule, also helped open my eyes to this liberating realization.) (Check out these 20 Ways to Get Happy (Almost) Instantly!)

This isn’t to say that I’ve stopped stressing about the gym altogether, or that I never fall back on old habits. There are still days when I spend too much time on the treadmill, only to realize what I was running from is still waiting for me when I get off. But my life today is filled with pursuits that bring me more satisfaction ¡ª and give me a greater sense of purpose ¡ª than any amount of calories burned or distance covered.

What You Need to Know

Up to three percent of the general population and 25 percent of people dealing with other addictions meet exercise addiction criteria, according to the National Institutes of Health. So what, exactly, are these exercise addiction criteria? Scientifically speaking, there are seven red flags:

    Tolerance: Needing more and more physical activity to achieve an improvement in mood, sense of calm, or exercise high.Withdrawal: Experiencing anxiety and irritability (and sometimes achiness or fatigue) on days where you can’t get to the gym.Time: Devoting unusually large amounts of time to engaging in, planning, recovering from, or thinking about exercise.Intention Effect: Planning to work out for a limited amount of time but repeatedly exceeding that limit.Loss of Control: Being unable to temper the amount of time spent exercising and feeling as if it’s controlling your life.Reduction in Other Activities: Canceling plans and losing interest in non-exercise-related activities as working out always takes precedence.Continuance: Persisting in one’s workouts despite injury, illness, fatigue, or medical advice.

If you feel you meet these criteria, reach out to a mental health professional who specializes in behavioral addictions, obsessive compulsive habits, or body image issues. If you know someone you think might be suffering, tread lightly when confronting them (no one likes to be told they need help), but mention you’re concerned about their habits and offer support.

Though recovery from exercise addiction is a tricky process, there is hope for those who are suffering. It may take an immense amount of work ¡ª much of which is behavioral change (no easy task) ¡ª but trust me when I say you can get better (and you don’t even have to quit going to the gym)!

Katherine Schreiber is the author of the Truth About Exercise Addiction: Understanding the Dark Side of Thinspiration.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography

Bust a Move With a Strong and Fun Dance Workout

The following post was originally featured on Fit Bottomed Girls and written by Kristen| who is part of POPSUGAR Select Fitness.

I’m really enjoying the triathlon off-season this year. I’m still getting out on my bike now and again| and I’ve gotten in some great runs this Winter| but I’ve also been making yoga| strength-training| and dance classes a much more regular thing. Specifically| I’ve been hitting hip-hop classes as often as I can ¡ª usually around once a week| depending on my schedule.

And I’m loving it. It’s got all the sass and fun of Zumba| but the moves are more reminiscent of what I grew up doing to Heavy D & the Boyz or Digital Underground. You know| lots of popping and pumping and jumping and attitude. Have I mentioned how much I love it?

So the other night| after running into a few technical issues while trying to play a workout DVD (thanks a lot for being in retrograde| Mercury)| I decided to| well| not just stand there| but bust a move! I put on some dope tunes (specifically| the “Y’all Ready For This: ’90s Jock Jams” station on Songza) and worked up a crazy sweat in just over half an hour. Turns out that my version of “dance like nobody’s watching” is . . . intense.

Now it’s probably obvious| but this workout is entirely what you make it. If you want to break out the Roger Rabbit| Running Man| body rolls| and whatever other moves you’ve got in your arsenal and go all out (plus throw a variety of different strength moves in between)| you will be exhausted by the end. I promise.

If you’re looking for something a little more beginner-friendly| just take the intensity down ¡ª maybe do moves that really raise your heart rate during the chorus of each song and stick to grapevines and step touches in between. When you’re doing the strength training| take it nice and slow| focusing more on form than number of reps. As long as you don’t stop moving| you’re rocking it.

Image Source: Fit Bottomed Girls

Bust a Move With a Strong and Fun Dance Workout

The following post was originally featured on Fit Bottomed Girls and written by Kristen, who is part of POPSUGAR Select Fitness.

I’m really enjoying the triathlon off-season this year. I’m still getting out on my bike now and again, and I’ve gotten in some great runs this Winter, but I’ve also been making yoga, strength-training, and dance classes a much more regular thing. Specifically, I’ve been hitting hip-hop classes as often as I can ¡ª usually around once a week, depending on my schedule.

And I’m loving it. It’s got all the sass and fun of Zumba, but the moves are more reminiscent of what I grew up doing to Heavy D & the Boyz or Digital Underground. You know, lots of popping and pumping and jumping and attitude. Have I mentioned how much I love it?

So the other night, after running into a few technical issues while trying to play a workout DVD (thanks a lot for being in retrograde, Mercury), I decided to, well, not just stand there, but bust a move! I put on some dope tunes (specifically, the “Y’all Ready For This: ’90s Jock Jams” station on Songza) and worked up a crazy sweat in just over half an hour. Turns out that my version of “dance like nobody’s watching” is . . . intense.

Now it’s probably obvious, but this workout is entirely what you make it. If you want to break out the Roger Rabbit, Running Man, body rolls, and whatever other moves you’ve got in your arsenal and go all out (plus throw a variety of different strength moves in between), you will be exhausted by the end. I promise.

If you’re looking for something a little more beginner-friendly, just take the intensity down ¡ª maybe do moves that really raise your heart rate during the chorus of each song and stick to grapevines and step touches in between. When you’re doing the strength training, take it nice and slow, focusing more on form than number of reps. As long as you don’t stop moving, you’re rocking it.

Image Source: Fit Bottomed Girls

The Best Eleven designer handbags

There are so many reasons why a girl needs the perfect handbag. Whether you are out running errands, at a party or out for a night on the town, a handbag needs to be fashionable, yet functional. Say goodbye to clutches and hello to satchels, cross body bags, and totes. They’re the new hot trend. Here is the list for The 11 Best Designer Handbags that are definitely splurge-worthy!

11 Tory Burch Juliette Satchel Tory Burch
10 Kate Spade Stewart Street Satchel Nordstrom
9 Rag & Bone Small Field Messenger Rag & Bone
8 Brahmin Velvet Satchel Nordstrom
7 Coach Rogue In Glovetanned Pebble Leather Coach
6 Michael Kors Hamilton Leather Satchel Nordstrom
5 Rebecca Minkoff Crossbody Bag Nordstrom
4 Marc Jacobs Studded Navigator Leather Saddle Bag Nordstrom
3 Gucci Supermini GG Marmont 2.0 Nordstrom
2 3.1 Phillip Lim Oversize Tie Front Tote Nordstrom
1 Ted Baker Sophina Suede Shoulder Bag Nordstrom

How to Work Out Less and Still Lose Weight

Losing weight doesn’t have to mean logging long hours on the treadmill. In fact| you’ve got our permission to cut your workout short. Don’t worry| you’ll still see results. Just be sure to follow these rules.

    Don’t cheat: Yes| high-intensity interval training (HIIT) can burn up to 14 calories per minute| but only if you do it right that is| you’re feeling out of breath and can’t talk to your workout buddy during each interval. Take this advice from an HIIT expert: if you’re going for 15 or 20 minutes| make sure you perform each interval at an eight or nine on a 10-point scale. Cutting it down even more? Your intensity should be maxed out every interval. Think of it as being an 11 on a 10-point scale.Mix it up: You can’t survive on HIIT alone overdoing it on intensity can cause an injury that can derail your efforts. Don’t do more than three HIIT sessions a week| and be sure to mix it up with slower exercise as well. Short is good here| too: a recent study found that healthy runners who only logged a few 30-minute| slow jogs every week had a lower risk of dying early than road warriors. Multitask: If you’re cutting your workout short| focusing on just one muscle group at a time just doesn’t make sense. Make sure you’re working your entire body and raising your heart rate| too ?by doing total-body moves as well as explosive exercises that really work your body.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography

How to Work Out Less and Still Lose Weight

Losing weight doesn’t have to mean logging long hours on the treadmill. In fact, you’ve got our permission to cut your workout short. Don’t worry, you’ll still see results. Just be sure to follow these rules.

    Don’t cheat: Yes, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) can burn up to 14 calories per minute, but only if you do it right ¡ª that is, you’re feeling out of breath and can’t talk to your workout buddy during each interval. Take this advice from an HIIT expert: if you’re going for 15 or 20 minutes, make sure you perform each interval at an eight or nine on a 10-point scale. Cutting it down even more? Your intensity should be maxed out every interval. Think of it as being an 11 on a 10-point scale.Mix it up: You can’t survive on HIIT alone ¡ª overdoing it on intensity can cause an injury that can derail your efforts. Don’t do more than three HIIT sessions a week, and be sure to mix it up with slower exercise as well. Short is good here, too: a recent study found that healthy runners who only logged a few 30-minute, slow jogs every week had a lower risk of dying early than road warriors. Multitask: If you’re cutting your workout short, focusing on just one muscle group at a time just doesn’t make sense. Make sure you’re working your entire body ¡ª and raising your heart rate, too ¡ª?by doing total-body moves as well as explosive exercises that really work your body.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography

7 Healthy Reasons to Have Sex ¡ª?Tonight!

7 Healthy Reasons to Have Sex u2014u00a0Tonight!

Skipping the gym for a romp in between the sheets isn’t something you should do every day| but it’s still a healthy distraction u2014u00a0it does burn calories| after all! Check out what other health benefits come from having sex.

Source: Thinkstock

| Improve Sleep

The hormone oxytocin increases when you have sex| and the heightened level helps you sleep better. Getting enough sleep is an important part of your overall health| so if you’re having trouble sleeping| sex is the perfect activity before hitting the hay.

| Reduce the Risk of Heart Disease

Research has shown that men who have sex two or more times a week cut their risk of developing heart disease (and stroke) in half.

| Relieve Stress

Do yourself a favor and get busy to reduce your blood pressure. The feel-good endorphins released during sex will help you forget about your bad day too.

| Boost Immunity

People who have sex once or twice a week have 30 percent higher levels of the antibody immunoglobulin A| which boosts the immune system and helps fight infections like colds and the flu. Getting down and dirty is just another way to help keep your lover healthy.

| Strengthen Pelvic Floor Muscles

Who says you need to be wearing a sports bra to work your core? Exercises that strengthen your pelvic floor can be done sitting at your desk and even during sex. Whether you know it or not| you’re performing Kegels while having sex| which also helps to increase pleasure. Bonus: a toned pelvic floor improves your bladder control.

| Relieve Congestion

Sex for seasonal allergies? Sure beats Benadryl. Having an orgasm temporarily clears up sinuses.

| Live Longer

Women who enjoy sex live longer than women who don’t u2014 an active sex life has been shown to make women feel two to eight years younger. A much better alternative to wrinkle creams!

The Best Eleven bathrobes

There’s nothing like stepping out of the shower and wrapping yourself into a warm robe. You can even avoid using a towel if the robe is absorbant. A bathrobe should be an essential to a bath or shower routine – here are the 11 Best Bathrobes for Him & Her. They make the perfect gift for men and women alike. Buy one for yourself and then one for your friends and family members, too!

11 Faux Fur Robe Pottery Barn
10 Duffield Double Knit Robe Nordstrom
9 Ugg Kalib Plaid Flannel Robe Nordstrom
8 Peruvian Pima Cotton Robe Nordstrom
7 Classic Terry Robe Pottery Barn
6 Terrycloth Spa His & Hers Robe Etsy
5 Hotel Piped Trim Robe Pottery Barn
4 Cashmere Robe Nordstrom
3 Cozy Hooded Long Robe Victoria’s Secret
2 Reversible Sherpa Robe Anthropologie
1 Cozy Sherpa Robe Pottery Barn